Fri. Final: MU Women 80, Gonzaga 77
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- It was a game Marquette forward Paige Fiederowicz said her team would not have won last season.
Fiederowicz led five players in double figures with a career-high 21 points to help the Golden Eagles defeat Gonazaga 80-77 Friday night.
But she said it was not offense but the team's new-found confidence to overcome adversity that helped it win a game it appeared to be losing for most of its 40 minutes.
"A big thing was we just had to keep our composure," Fiederowicz said. "It shows we have matured from last year."
Marquette had to battle back from a nearly game-long deficit and the loss of starter Jocelyn Mellen in the opening minutes to a knee injury.
Even Marquette coach Terri Mitchell admitted the injury upset her.
"It depressed me because I love the kid," she said.
But with Georgie Jones filling in ably for Mellen with 12 points and 7 rebounds and three other players hitting double figures -- Angel Robinson and Lauren Thomas-Johnson 13 each and Krystal Ellis 12 -- the Golden Eagles (5-0) won a battle of unbeatens in a first-round game of its three-day WBCA Classic.
Mitchell was proud of her team for coming back against a good team.
"A game of runs," she said. "It seemed like whoever would have the final run would win."
Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves knew why Marquette got the final run.
"They obviously made the plays down the stretch," Graves said. "I thought we let the game get away from us."
Gonazaga (5-1) couldn't overcome Marquette's balanced scoring or solid play in the closing minutes despite a career-high 32 points from Courtney Vandersloot.
Graves said he felt he made a mistake by expecting his star to do too much to win the game. But Vandersloot, whose old high was 27 against Eastern Oregon Nov. 14, disagreed.
"It wasn't coach putting too much on me. We just didn't make the plays down the strech," she said.
Vandersloot also does not mind being leaned on.
"I do like that because I want the ball in my hands," she said.
Fiederowicz's previous scoring high was 17 points last Nov. 27 against William & Mary.
Marquette trailed most of the game and was still down 71-63 after a Vandersloot basket. But Marquette, with Jones leading the way, stormed back. Ellis made a pair of free throws with 1:40 left for a 75-73 lead and the Golden Eagle hung on to win.
Graves said rebounding and free throws were also key in the game. Marquette won the battle of the boards 43-35, especially late when they counted the most, and shot 35 free throws, 16 more than Gonzaga.
"You can't win that way," he said.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)